Phoenix Petrel (Pterodroma alba)

Phoenix Petrel

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Pterodroma alba | [authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [UK] Phoenix Petrel | [FR] Petrel a poitrine blanche | [DE] Phonix-Sturmvogel | [ES] Petrel de las Phoenix | [NL] Phoenixstormvogel


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Pterodroma alba PO sw


Genus Pterodroma, Pseudobulweria and Aphrodroma are also knwon as the Gadfly Petrels. They vary in size from rather small birds such as the Cookilaria-species, measuring about 26 cm, to the much larger and robust representatives of this group like the White-headed Petrel with an overall length of about 43 cm. Their plumages also vary a great deal from species to species; from completely black to light grey mantles and pure white bellies, and with different color phases within species. One feature shared by all of them is the black bill of which the shape also shows much variation. Some species are extremely rare and restricted to a very limited area, other are abundant and wander widely or have unknown pelagic ranges.
The group of the Gadfly Petrels counts over 35 species, mainly from the Southern Hemisphere. There are three genera: Pterodroma with about 30 species, Pseudobulweria counting four and Aphrodroma with only one. Many authors have tried to classify the large number of species of this group and to determine their relationships. This has resulted in a division in several subgenera and the grouping of several species which are considered to have a more or less close relationship. The taxonomic discussion has not come to an end yet: new species have been added or split recently and probably will be in the near future.

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized, dark brown and white petrel. Fairly uniform greyish-brown head, neck, upper breast, upperparts, upperwing and tail. White lower breast, belly and undertail. Brown underwing, with thin white line near leading edge of inner wing. Black bill. Pink legs. Feet pink proximally, black distally. Uniform underwing is distinction from intermediate phases of Herald Petrel P. heraldica and Kermadec Petrel P. neglecta which have white patches. Confusion most likely with Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata, but it is less bulky, has smaller bill, and flies on angled wings without the languor of P. rostrata

Listen to the sound of Phoenix Petrel

[audio: Petrel.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Todd Mark

wingspan min.: 81 cm wingspan max.: 85 cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 37 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : Southwest. alba breeds in the Line and Phoenix Islands (Kiribati), Marquesas Islands (French Pacific Oceanlynesia), and Pitcairn Islands (to UK)


It nests in colonies on islets or islands at low altitude


P. alba nests on low atolls and motus and on a few (largely predator-free) volcanic islands the main peak of egg-laying was found to be November-January, with a secondary peak in April-June. Females lay one white egg on the ground surface.

Feeding habits

It feeds mainly on squid, supplemented by fish and crustaceans; it may obtain much food by following cetaceans

Video Phoenix Petrel


copyright: Peter Fraser


This species has a small population which is declining owing to predation by rats and cats. Its breeding range is small and declining and probably consists of fewer than ten locations. Trends are difficult to assess as breeding is variable both within and between years. The majority of birds breed on Kiritimati on which the black rat has recently arrived. A very rapid population reduction is consequently predicted and this species therefore qualifies as Endangered.
Birds only appear to survive on islands without cats. The arrival of black rat Rattus rattus on Kiritimati is a major worry and is likely to lead to a very rapid population reduction
Phoenix Petrel status Endangered


Disperses over wide range of tropical Pacific, occurring N to 24 degrees N at Hawaii and S to 30 degrees S at Kermadec Is.

Distribution map

Phoenix Petrel distribution range map

1 Comment

Add a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *